Last month, I was introduced to Jeanne Murray Walker, a poet I’d never heard of, and a beautiful piece that put words to faith and doubt in a way that dug into my soul and wouldn’t let go. I owe it to this post from Micha Boyett Horhorst’s blog Mama:Monk, because otherwise, I still might have never read this.
Micha challenges her readers to memorize a poem a month. As May came to a close, I told myself I’d memorize her next one for sure… and what a great place to start. Upon reading, making a noise of recognition, and reading it again, I scribbled it on the front and back of two large sticky notes and kept in on my desk all month until I had it committed to memory. (I don’t think I’ve intentionally memorized a poem since I had to in high school… God bless high school English.)
Such true and beautiful words. If you ever wondered what it was like to keep the faith through doubt, to hope when it doesn’t make sense… let me have the pleasure of introducing you to Ms. Walker’s profound words…
In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International
Convention of Atheists. 1929
Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts
outside and question the metal sky,
longing to have the fight settled, thinking
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say
all right, it is improbable, all right, there
is no God. And then as if I’m focusing
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t
there that makes the notion flare like
a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon
dragging the hose to put it out. Even
on an ordinary day when a friend calls,
tells me they’ve found melanoma,
complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,
wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire
again, which–though they say it doesn’t
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.
Oh, we have only so many words to think with.
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s
a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,
but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.
You don’t want to talk, so you pull out
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up
and a voice you love whispers hello.
There are more poems on her website, and they are also wonderful. Here’s another one that makes me smile:
For a hundred miles
the fields have worn
beards of ugly stubble
and night is falling
and you can’t find
a lover, not on AM or FM,
and the hand at the toll booth
wears a glove
so as not to touch you.
You pay for yourself,
then for the car behind you,
so someone pushing headlights
through the heavy dark
will feel luck
go off like a Roman candle,
so she’ll give a car length
to the maniac who cuts her off,
and you, there in your lonely bubble,
can think of each tail light,
each anonymous fender
as a friend.
Thanks for this, Mama Monk. Please visit her blog. It’s not your average mom blog, I promise.
And for more of Jeanne Murray Walker, visit her website as well.
Lots on the mind tonight. Good conversations. Editing a new album review. Attempting to handwrite something every night before sleeping.
(last night, I discovered I couldn’t remember how to make a cursive I, by the way. So a chunk of that writing time was re-teaching myself stuff I learned in… like… 4th grade. Pointless random Jenfact share of the night. :))
And reading. A lot.
Summer was made for this sort of thing.